Consensus

In a Facebook discussion  1  stemming from Andy Hollman’s posting of Jacob Bera’s recent piece for the AASB 2 questions of the value of one of AkDEED’s experiments in teacher assessment were raised, and as it seemed to me that the discussion was turning away in part from a focus on what Jacob had to say, I thought I would start a thread focused on that alone.

AkDEED, face with continuing concerns with regard to evidence-based certification and assessment of teachers, decided to look at whether a consensus could be produced regarding appropriate praxis. AkDEED enlisted the assistance of hundreds of Master Teachers who then watched hours of videos of teachers teaching, rating performances on multiple scales. These volunteers then reviewed and discussed what they saw, why they rated the video the way they did, and how any differences might be resolved.

Now, the use of videos as a tool for teacher evaluation is widely accepted (it is in fact a major element of National Certification3 ). However, as anyone familiar with the topic will note, the teacher is free to submit any video the teacher wishes, and may redo the video over and over, and even school their students in performing for the video. So one can see that using video is at best fraught and dubious (yet it is one fundamental to one of Jacob’s arguments, but that is for another discussion …)

What I wish to address here, and what I tried to point out there, are some of the premises underlying any evaluation. There are two matters that are particularly of concern: 1) the manner in which any evaluation rubric is established, and 2) the manner in which evaluators (NBPTS uses the terms “assessors”) are qualified. To put that into rather simple language, can we agree on what good teaching is, and can we identify individuals who can sniff that out?

AKDEED adopted an Aristotelian, rather than a Platonic model. In other words, AkDEED thought they would crowdsource from those who would likely really understand the subtleties of educational praxis. We can arguably contrast that with NBPTS, which self-selected persons to set up a system to find those like themselves. I won’t argue the pros or cons of either methodology here; my focus here is on whether one can expect to obtain a consensus from experts on what those experts are supposed to be doing.

In a sense, AKDEED developed a practical exercise in what can be described as a modified Delphi method, running various prompts repeatedly through a group of experts to see if consensus about what good teaching is could be obtained.  Note that this part of the process has little or nothing to do with how the videos were prepared.  The focus is on whether what is being viewed is evidence of good teaching. In fact, such videos are used as part of educational instructional across the country.

The results were problematic. There was little agreement on what good teaching was, and some rather heated arguments about what wasn’t. In as much as the responses to videos were arguably more dependent on a teacher’s philosophy than on the evidence that of course made it just as difficult to grapple with the second horn; it was going to be virtually impossible to get any cadre of evaluators to agree on most anything.

Many teachers will assume that they and their colleagues are all extremely competent, but absent broad opportunities for peer review, those views seem more a collection of prejudices than evidence-based conclusions. I have to consider how teachers are “prepared”, and I see little that argues that first year teachers hired from UAA are by virtue of their degree, competent to teach. Whatever your thoughts about the management of ASD, it would appear that ASD has essentially agreed with me for some time. No, I am not saying that all UAA teachers are useless twits; I am saying that we have little evidence to show that they are competent independent professionals.

I have been inordinately lucky in some respects. I have had many teachers observe my teaching and have been able to observe many teachers across numerous subject areas and levels. Personally I think that is invaluable experience and is why I am a proponent of peer review. But then I see teaching like excellent theater, an approach I think not shared by all that many.

But to return to the focus of this reflection, if teachers can’t develop a consensus, then they are either agreeing that anything goes, or that they will knuckle their forehead to some arbitrary authority (who may be a philosopher king, or a tantrumming tyro.) I am not a fan of Doors 2 and 3.

Just Another Simple Solution

There’s no easy way to put this, so I might as well come out and just say it: Mr. Donley appears to be very confused.1 Unfortunately this is only to be expected from the silver bullet crowd who invariably see all problems as susceptible to simple solutions, solution simple solutions that they, of course, have at the ready.

Social promotion has been a concern for years 2, but it is not the source of the problem. The  reason for social promotion is that we have a system largely based on age based cohorts. And for most of a students school years, and removal from their age cohort is a kin to branding the child as “defective”.

Many educators have pointed out ways to address retention and social promotion 3 and underlying may of those recommendations is the fact that  if schools moved to a skill based system as opposed to an age based system, artifacts like social promotion would disappear, especially as the granularity of the skill based modules is increased. In fact, some of the more successful programs on view in schools attempt to exploit just such options, like Walk to Read 4, where students are grouped across classrooms for reading instruction.

Certainly there are challenges to any educational system. A typical criticism of skill based cohort management is that this is simply “tracking”5 and that tracking breeds elitism. Gross tracking could clearly lead in that direction, but effective course management and the distribution of children make it pretty clear that such results might only be seen for 3 of a thousand children, all of whom would have been entitled to IEPs as exceptional children until the likes of Mr Donley “fixed” the Alaska Statutes.

But changing the cohort system is not just a different “silver bullet”; it is not a comprehensive solution. Not only do we need to change the cohort system to focus on instruction (instead of focusing on “management”) but we also need to implement early childhood and Pre-K surveillance, assessment, and service,  as well as clinical intervention to address fundamental inadequacies in literacy and numeracy. It is not like we can hide our heads in the sand any more; we KNOW that early deficiencies in reading WILL result in likely trauma, incarceration, etc.6 Spend the money now, or spend the money later.

Lastly, let me note that this is not likely a sudden inspiration on Mr. Donley’s part. With the election of the current Governor, we will be seeing a bill along the same lines introduced in the legislature . 7 I don’t want to fault Republican legislators for being concerned about education; but endorsing a corporate package unsupported by actual research is a recipe for disaster.

 

Far From Indivisible, Alaska

I recently received the mailer below from the Wright campaign. I tried to post that mailer, together with my “call to action” 1 to the Indivisible Alaska Facebook group 2, which touts as its purpose:

We are pursuing the Indivisible Team’s strategy (please read indivisibleguide.com). We resist Trump’s racist, authoritarian, and corrupt agenda by focusing on local, defensive congressional advocacy. We demand that our own local Members of Congress serve as our voice in Washington, DC. We model inclusion, respect, and fairness in all of our actions.

This is an action-oriented group with Call to Actions. We understand the frustrations and anxiety in these times. However, if you wish to express your concerns and anxieties, there are other groups on facebook such as Alaskans Stronger Together and Indivisible in Alaska and Indivisible Rapid Response Team, that are forums for general disappointment.

This group is action-oriented as described by indivisibleguide.com. For that reason, the posts are moderated so we do not dilute our Call to Actions.

Before inviting other friends to this action-oriented group, please inform them that they will need to answer these question before they are approved for membership.

Our most recent Call to Action will be pinned at the top of the discussion. Please help us with our Calls to Action (phone calls, visits to local Congressional offices, etc.), at least once a week.

My “call to action”?
Please call Stanley (9077430459) and ask him for specifics!

Ask him what he specifically was opposed to in SB 91 (here’s the engrossed bill http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/29?Hsid=SB0091Z and an ADN piece on misconceptions https://www.adn.com/…/how-sb-91-has-changed-alaskas-crimin…/ so you can score his responses) Ask him what he thinks of SB 54 (http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Text/30?Hsid=SB0054Z), why he thinks that SB 54 did not “fix” SB91. Ask him what he specifically thinks the incumbent should have but didn’t do with respect to SB54. Ask him where his proposed legislation can be found for your review.

Please ask Stanley on what occasions the incumbent voted to cut the PFD, and why the incumbent voted on each occasion to cut the PFD, as well as what he specifically would have done to avoid cutting the PFD (“cut the budget” is NOT an answer.)

And ask Stanley why he thinks the incumbent, who has been a vociferous advocate for educational funding, should be replaced by someone who will hopefully either be in the House minority, or will be forced to vote to cut educational spending (the mantra of the state GOP).

It is time to make Republican candidates realize that running on truthiness will no longer be tolerated.

Direct, issue grounded, respectful, and to the point. My submission was not approved.

I was a bit miffed because not only was my submission clearly within the pale of posts previously approved for the group, but because the Group allowed two threads to burgeon that spewed inaccurate vitriol attacking Judges Corey and Wolverton, who are presently the targets of another mob campaign by those who, clueless about how our system works, simply want to just hang the most convenient person.

When I asked one of the admins, Kathleen Smith Goodman, why my post was not approved, but the admins allowed the mob rants about the Judges, I received this message:

Your post needs to be toned down. Make it more direct with a quick ask and it will be reviewed again and more likely looked at by more people in the group. We are not a discussion group or a place to air your frustrations. You may look to these other sites for that, such as Alaskans Stronger Together and Indivisible in Alaska and Indivisible Rapid Response Team, that are forums for general disappointment and further discussion. I have had no requests from other members to remove comments on judges.

So much for “indivisible” Alaska.

Once again, an hysterical self-appointed purity patrol has rolled out the guillotine to lop off the head of anyone who is not as manic as they are. I invite all rational Alaskans to join this group (if you are not a member already) and post your disgust with such witch hunting.


Husbandry vs Hubris

We had seen her regularly in RJSP for a month or more. This past weekend she was down in the spring, and Tuesday she was up in the meadows below the moraine. But there was as yet no sign of any calf. This morning as we walked the proposed bike trail, Bernie suddenly went on point, and I scanned the copse of trees 40 yards ahead. Sure enough, there was mama with not one calf, but two, brightly minted new moose. Any tweener on that trail on a mountain bike (and I have raised a few myself) would have plowed into Mama Moose at about 8 mph, and the Mrs. would not have been pleased.

What we are seeing in the MOA’s brash attempt to push through single track trails in Russian Jack Springs Park is a past MOA Park official now running a private grant shop abusing Municipal systems intended to protect natural resources (and the public’s interests) to promote a recreational user group, entangling ADF&G habitat biologists in what is really a web of deceit. The proposed trail ran through wetlands in an area identified as critical natural habitat and the response, put crudely, from ADF&G biologist Cunya, was that a game path is much the same as a highway so it’s of no concern to anyone at ADF&G… Did I overstate the biologist’s position? Perhaps, but that was the impact of what he had to say on the grant process, because Ms. Nordland (not Anna Shaw, who spoke to the biologists) certified that there were no resident fish in RJSP (false), no anadromous fish in RJSP (very possibly false), no migratory fowl in RJSP (false), no raptors in RJSP (false), and no concerns regarding interactions between large land mammals and humans (really?).  And virtually none of that is really defensible.

Is my disappointment primarily with ADF&G? No. Frankly, the MOA (and the buck here sits in Chris Schutte’s lap) has bobbed and weaved in an effort to duck every checkpoint that Planning has placed in the system, including, apparently, ignoring Title 21’s requirement for a UDC Trail review, ensuring that the WNRC could not review the project, and refusing to comply with the 2006 Municipal Plan or the 2009 directive from PRC requiring the development of a natural resource plan before any further development in the park. But as habitat biologists, ADF&G staff could have set flags, in no small part because they are very well aware that the MOA has no habitat staff.

Last year my neighbor and I put out garbage cans in the park (and regularly cleaned them) because P&R had decided that the danger of Black bear in RJSP was so great that all non-bear proof cans had to be removed. They took ours, as well the cans at the ball fields! We have seen one Black bear in the area (on the east side of Cheney Lake) in 20 years. We see half a dozen moose in RJSP almost year around, with 2-4 calves each spring, and the position of P&R is that if someone gets hurt by a moose “that’s up to the lawyers to work out, ha ha ha”. Perhaps we need to change the name of Parks and Rec. to the Municipal Hubris Department?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pages 50-51 of the Anchorage Bowl Park, Natural Resource,and Recreation Facility Plan, adopted by Adopted by Ordinance AO 2005-122, April 18, 2006. Click on the images to obtain the pdf files.

Grober’s Jean Memo

I thought this had been tossed in the trash years ago… Imagine my amazement when I found out it had been circulating around the Courthouse for ages…

 

TO: JUDGE VAN HOOMISON
FROM: MARC GROBER
RE: DRESS CODES

Last week in Nenana you warned me not to wear “jean” slacks or shirts into a courtroom where you are presiding. At first blush your directive seemed simple enough, but upon further meditation
I have developed some real problems in ordering future vestments.

I present the following discussion to you in the spirit that it may prove profitable and hope that this sort of discussion may yield a formal order from each judge which may be posted on the courtroom door. This may prevent the confusion I felt, having appeared numerous times in your court in a jean shirt with jean slacks, tie and jacket. Perhaps because of the distance between bar and bench you never noticed it til now.

Specifically, what is nature of the beast you are discriminating against? The dictionary defines jean as durable twilled cotton. Denim is defined as twilled fabric which may or may not be cotton. Twill is a type of weave where weft is floated over two or more threads (both serge and gabardine are twills), as opposed for example to chambray, which is a plain weave. If I recall correctly I was at the time wearing a blue cotton chambray shirt.

I am sure you can see my dilemma. Surely you can’t be asking me to buy non-durable clothes? And I am just as sure that you can’t be proscribing twills, for most fine clothes are twill weaved (gabardine, serge, herringbone etc.) Or is it the cotton that offends? On top of it all, though my slacks were cotton twill my shirt was plain weaved • • • it would appear that the only common factors were their blueness (my favorite color) and the fact that they were cotton.

Now, is a polyester denim appropriate? I do so deplore synthetic. fabrics. I do have a Blue wool twill suit, but it is terribly stifling for spring and summer wear.

With respect to shirts, sir, I do have a cotton polyester blue denim shirt manufactured by Lee but because of the use of polyester as reinforcement I am not really sure if this is jean or not. This, however , is a shirt I have worn in your Courtroom before • • •

And while on the subject, I have worn my moose skin boots (my usual footwear) to court in the winter. Are there any guidelines as to summer footwear? I prefer my waders as that is usually what I wear, but I understand that another attorney was found in contempt for coming into Court that way.

I was recently reproached wearing a sweater instead of a sports jacket. One can only get suit coats with suits and I always thought that sports clothes were taboo in court. Are pullovers of fabric allowable? What about wrap-around sweaters and warm-up jackets? Please, what are appropriate criteria?

Some people wear hats, of course, for religious and personal reasons. For example, many chassids (a Jewish sect I have admired) wear large black broad brimmed felt hats everywhere. Indeed many feel it is virtually sacrilegious to bare your head to anybody or anything. My grandfather’s generation felt much the same about their Bogart-style hats. I know that there are many cases in this area, for
example can an attorney who is a priest wear his religious costume to court. Certainly there are First Amendment questions that need to be considered here.

Lastly, After reading the Friedman case I hope we don’t have to tangle with “conservative business-dress”. Nenana is as conservative as they come but business men here almost never wear jacket and tie and one successful business man wears well used work pants, suspenders, and T-shirt. Not to mention that I saw Governor Hammond on the TV the other night giving us the business and he didn’t even have a tie on • • •

Personally I’d get a kick out of wearing a black robe like yours (they do it that way in England you know)! That way you wouldn’t have to worry about what my clothes were made of and I might even get a tax deduction out of it • • •

UPDATE ON ANCHORAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S LOOK AT SCHOOL START TIMES

High School student Matthew Park started a petition to ASD in July 2017 to push high school start times to 8:30. https://www.change.org/p/anchorage-school-district-push-start-times-in-asd-high-schools-to-8-30-am

In August of 2017 the Superintendent (Dr. Deena Bishop) and the Board President (Tam Agosti-Gisler) indicated that they wanted to look at changing school start times.  https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/education/2017/08/09/should-the-anchorage-school-district-change-its-school-start-times/

By November the Superintendent had used her discretionary budget to hire Western Demographics to look at the issue in what some have called an “efficiency study”.  http://www.ktva.com/story/36909860/local-teens-welcome-new-school-start-times

Since then the Superintendent has published a web page on school start times on the ASD website. The Page never identified who actually authored the content. https://www.asdk12.org/Page/10284  The web page originally contained names and dates of authors whose work purportedly supported the claims made in the document, but no bibliography was ever included. When complaints were made about ASD needing to provide a full bibliography, the material identifying dates and authors was deleted. https://www.facebook.com/groups/AkEducators/permalink/10156543167479267/  A  bibliography that included all but one of the sources apparently mentioned by ASD (one did not appear to exist) as well as quite a bit of additional literature addressing questions raised by AEA members was prepared and shared with ASD (see https://www.zotero.org/groups/2153649/school_start_times. ASD has never shared that bibliography.

Shannon Bingham, President of Western Demographics, presented to AEA building representations on March 28th. Mr. Bingham apologized for not having published his presentation online, and for not having a bibliography available. AEA Representatives presented quite a few unanswered questions, including the impact on Elementary students, and interventions that ameliorate the sleep disorders relied upon by much of the research to suggest changes in start times (see Alaska Educators Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/AkEducators/permalink/10156543167479267/ ). ASD still has not published any additional material from Mr. Bingham.

The material presented by Mr. Bingham was somewhat inconsistent with the material presented on the ASD web page, apparently as a result of ongoing examination of the question by Western Demographics, but as noted, the most current material has not been published to the ASD website.

A short bulleted version of this is available at http://bit.ly/ASDBULLETS

Bill Roth ADN

Anchorage skyline and pan ice at Point Woronzof on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

 

Round and Round We Go

I thought I would continue to try and have a substantive conversation with Dr. Bishop regarding her presentation to our legislative delegation, which as you can see from the note at the very bottom (chronology is bottom up – see below for some shortcuts) piqued my curiosity when I saw it referenced in a State Senator’s newsletter.  I have appended the conversation save the last reply from her, which, because that reply removed the markup, made following the back and forth (more) difficult. Her last reply was,

Dear Mr. Grover,
Thank you for your thorough feedback. 
I hope you have a nice holiday.
Cheers,
Deena Bishop

Apparently she now has me confused with a blue Sesame St character (OK, maybe that’s not all that unusual…) But will she respond to my questions or concerns? I think that is as likely as her setting up a meeting, don’t you?

There were a total of 6 notes. Click here for my initial e-mail. Click here for Dr. Bishop’s reply to that note (the second in the string). My comments on Dr. Bichop’s note (the third note) can be found here. I interlineated my comments to her reply, so her reply and my comments appear at the top in one message, here. My writing appears in Times New Roman, Dr. Bishop’s in Helvetica.


To:        Dr. Deena Bishop
From:    Marc Grober

On 12/14/17 2:42 PM, Bishop_Deena wrote:

Hi Mr. Grober,

Hello Deena – answers interlineated below…

You and I must meet.

Actually, we need not meet, though if you wish to meet I can certainly accommodate that. However, I don’t see you as taking steps to that end, do I, so I will assume that is just polite puffing? which you can dispense with as many people find it confusing. On the off chance you are serious you know where to reach me.

I do not think that we are necessarily that distant 
on our desired outcomes for the education of students...
the details in our respective areas have some differences.

I don’t know that we have shared our “desired outcomes for the education of students”, nor am I sure what our “respective areas” are, let alone what you think the differences in those areas might be. Perhaps you could explain?

I do agree with some of your thoughts on preschool and 
the universal access that Oklahoma has tackled.

Actually, I don’t think I shared any ideas on pre-school, though I inquired as to whether you promoted Oklahoma’s position on pre-school to the legislators, a question you seem not to have answered.

Many of their preschools are funded outside of the 
k-12 system, even to private entities.

I am unaware of the sources for your claims. Perhaps you could share them?

On the other hand, there is ample documentation of the success Oklahoma had with funding public pre-school (see, http://sde.ok.gov/sde/files/ok.gov.sde/sde/Legislative%20Briefing%20PreK%20Program.pdf for State fact sheet), both in the press:
http://hechingerreport.org/why-oklahomas-public-preschools-are-some-of-the-best-in-the-country/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/02/14/is-oklahoma-the-right-model-for-universal-pre-k/
https://eyeonearlyeducation.com/2016/02/18/universal-pre-k-in-oklahoma-a-national-model/
http://newsok.com/article/5550751
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oklahoma-offers-pre-k-model-for-nation/
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/seeing-success-conservative-oklahoma-banks-on-universal-preschool

and in the literature:
https://www.crocus.georgetown.edu/publications
[shared as I was not sure whether this aspect of education had been broached as an area of Board interest and as we were including the Board in our conversation, they should have some familiarity with the topic – though I am not suggesting that they did not have a background in this already]

I think this is a good thing.

I see private education below the endowed post-secondary level (perhaps with certain very elite exceptions such as Phillips Andover, Exeter, etc) as suffering from poorer staffing than public schools because they pay less, provide no workplace guarantees, etc. and my experience with private schools in Alaska underscores my impressions. What data do you have that suggest that private entities manage education well?

 ASD does not have to be solely responsible for 
all preschool education. 

Perhaps not (though see my caveat above), however, by the time you impose the constraints necessary to ensure that the provision of services are comparable, you have rendered the private entity much more expensive (less affordable, I think you’d put it) and operating at a disadvantageous scale 😉

Partnerships, to me, is the key to solving this 
community concern.

Partnerships can be successful when the partners bring something to the table. You have yet to suggest what that might be.

If I can offer a lower overhead and the private 
owner agrees to pass this onto the customer, perhaps 
more folks can afford quality preschool?

Which essentially ignores the likelihood that the private operator is providing an unacceptably poor program, or the cost would be in excess of what ASD could provide.

Unused educational space is there, parents are 
looking for quality preschools they can afford, 
and empirical evidence supports early learning benefits.

Again, you seem to have ignored the fact that there might be lots of demands for space in ASD schools, but for the fact that ASD has been shedding anything that suggests it might be outside its mission statement. You also seem to have dismissed any possibility that class size could be reduced if ASD moved people out of positions carrying water for the administration, to actually teaching.

Additionally the closest reading of the literature to date suggests that the benefits of Pre-K dissipate if instruction in K-3 doesn’t maintain the pace the child experienced in Pre-K, which commends, of course, smaller elementary class sizes, AND an argument to legislators to fund Pre-K (which I will note, again, you appear NOT to have made).

On the NAEP front---2015 data is actually quite recent 
as NAEP is only given every other year to randomly 
selected students in randomly selected schools across 
the state and nation. We do not get individual student 
or school results for the NAEP. And, to be honest, 
PEAKS results mirror AYP results more than either 
of these assessments mirrored the SBA test of yesteryear. 
My argument with the delegation was that we get 
it...we get that the standards have changed and we 
are addressing this. It was not a self-congratulatory 
action. It was intended more for transparent accountability 
on my part. No excuses here.

I am not going to duel about the specifics of NAEP testing – that is all of record for anyone to see. Nor am I going to argue about the significance of AYP testing on its own or vis-a-vis the NAEP, as that is also a matter of broad discussion in the literature as I said before, and I am sure you have provided the Board with an extensive bibliography on same. My point was that the Education Next piece was of little value; a better demonstration would have been State longitudinal data, and even that is of attenuated value because it is really not comparable to Alaska Urban data as many have been at pains to point out to the likes of the ideologues at Alaska Policy Forum and their fellow travelers.

If your intent was to demonstrate that we are between a rock and a hard spot, you frankly failed as that was not the message that was passed on. If your intent was to differentiate between the urban performance and rural performance, again, you seem to have failed. And I would have thought it would have been a great opportunity for you to share your correspondence to NAEP decrying their failure to include Anchorage in their Urban assessments, and I take it that in this too, you failed. Of course, failing is the only way we really learn, though I don’t know too many employers who see it that way…

The SAT/ACT scores were presented in a Fast Facts 
sheet for ASD, available to all stakeholders. 
I did not present personally on this topic. I have 
included the data in the fast facts in this email.

So, this was simply more second hand hash. In as much as it was expected that scores on SAT and ACT would drop across Alaska takers as State requirements forced more who would otherwise NOT take the tests to take them, it would have seemed appropriate if talking about school performance to trot out such data as it is some of the on;y data that compares apples and apples we have. SInce I have not seen the presentation I can’t really comment on how it was targeted, of course, but I do have to wonder why real data on such a measure was not included on any discussion of legislative priorities for the District. Perhaps, should you make that presentation available, I could comment further?

I do have each school's national percentile score 
and will request these data also be available on 
the Data Dashboard as you have a good point 
in that they are not easily accessible.

Please advise when the data is available.

As long as we are talking about data, I should note that I had been trying to have a conversation with ASD about concussion, TBI, and sports, and had been told (2 years ago) that a committee would be formed (I even received an invite) to look into this matter (action supposedly delayed due to staffing). The staffing issue was resolved months ago, but apparently the new staff member chooses not to respond to correspondence.

In the meantime, conversations with a Board member about the data pertinent to the Middle College suggested that the member had asked for data, and yet months have passed and the member seems to be as unable to obtain data from ASD as I am, though I don’t want to put words in the members mouth…

And it seems when schools jumped on DIBELS, their successes with that tool were ignored when ASD moved to AIMSweb. Now I am hearing rumors that AIMSweb is no longer required, thereby foregoing critical data. Is there an ASD white paper on the history of probe adoption and implementation at the district which includes a section on the current tools, their relationship, if any, to prior tools, and the analysis behind any changes?

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses. They do make me step back and think.

I thought that was the entire purpose of conversation (and the reason I was black-balled from ever working at the District, lol).

Tell me, when a student complains that a teacher is spending so much time lecturing students on how to use technology the teacher  wants to use to teach that he isn’t effectively teaching the underlying lesson, what does that tell you about what is (or is not) appropriate Ed Tech?  Don’t be a tool; use the tool 😉

A Shifty Solstice, a Yumpin’ Yule, and a Scandolous Saturnalia to you and yours,

Marc

—–Original Message—–

From: Marc Grober [mailto:marc@interak.com] Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2017 11:33 AM
To: School Board <SchoolBoard@asdk12.org>
Subject: Re: Questions from the Trenches

 

Dear Dr. Bishop,

Thank you for your interim response.

I fully understand the issues with most State AYP assessments as compared to the NAEP, as I clearly noted. I don’t understand why anyone would rely on an out of date Education Next article to address this point when it has been the subject of extensive academic discussion for some time, especially because of the nature of the NAEP as opposed to that of most AYP assessments vis-a-vis the scope of the assessment.

“Yikes!”, is not an argument in any company I know. It is an exclamation of horrified amazement, used here because the Senator apparently came away with the impression that confirmation by way of an out of date article in a political journal that an assessment abandoned by the State years ago found some agreement with long standing NAEP results, that Alaska students are far from proficiency, was a basis for self-congratulation.

More importantly, the message apparently received by the Senator seemed to be missing a longitudinal analysis with respect to the testing Alaska has done. In other words, to be blunt, had someone simply compared findings of proficiency from State AYP testing with that afforded by NAEP testing annually for the last decade that would have very simply evidenced the gap, and done that without confusing anyone. Let’s just say that I am intrigued by the fact that the Senator didn’t share the graphic your staff prepared with respect to such an analysis; can you tell us where we can find it? I certainly agree that it is high time to recognize that the State is a long way away from being able to demonstrate adequate long term proficiency on basal standards; the problem is demonstrating to legislators that increasing revenues will change that, and that NAEP testing pressnts an appropriate standard. Those bits seem to be missing, not to mention the fact that the NAEP mysteriously failed to include Anchorage in its urban testing results, and a discussion of why that might have been, and whether NAEP is going to correct that oversight.

In sum, I would have expected any such presentation to cover the challenges presented by the State’s approach to education, and the marginal successes the local District can show despite those State-wide issues. Perhaps the easiest way to get to the bottom of what you did present is to make your presentation public on the ASD web?

As to private pre-school use of ASD facilities: a) If you rent such facilities for less than the market value you are indeed wasting ASD assets, no matter your inventive approach to finance.  b) Scalable is not synonymous with affordable, this does not present an viable argument that the private sector can provide appropriate instruction at a lower cost (which seems to be what your argument is intended to imply), and ASD could always actually reduce the size of Kindergarten classes if ASD chooses to spend money on teachers, instead of on activities, administrators, special projects, and unused curricular materials.  c) The community has been busy hemorrhaging services to meet budget constraints for two decades. Did you suggest to the legislators that, as in places like ultra-conservative Oklahoma, it is high time that Alaska offered free universal pre-school, and that in light of the State budget restrictions on communities like Anchorage, it is grossly unfair to expect such communities to subsidize pre-school themselves? Apparently the Senator missed that bit too.

I am pleased, however, that this is just something your highly paid staff is investigating, and hope, like some of the bizarre schemes floated by your predecessor, this idea gets short shrift. I would suggest (AGAIN) that the District roll out the Budget Review Team system; I think that would go a long way to affording the District “community resources” as far as appropriate ways to spend educational revenues.

The ACT/SAT data should be easily accessibly via the portion of ASD’s web site addressing assessment, and for someone who has argued that decisions will be data driven, it is confusing at the least to have to ask to see what was provided to legislators. Unless, like the release of a new iphone, there is some benefit to keeping close wraps on such presentations, it would sem that the best policy is to develop and public the presentation, and then use that as a basis for discussion with legislators or whomever, as opposed to engaging in apologetics about what you believe actually happened. Thank you for your reply. It is unfortunate that so many of your staff are not as responsive.

Marc

On 12/13/17 7:45 PM, Bishop_Deena wrote:

Hi Mr. Grober,

Thank you for your feedback.  I want to clarify a 
few items you mentioned now and will get back 
with you on others, once I can locate the data.

1. Preschool---In this area, ASD is looking 
to broaden the opportunities for preschool 
in our community. We are presently using grant 
money to provide pre-schools in some of our 
schools. However, this does not meet 
all needs as presently there remain families 
who cannot afford quality preschools. 

At this same time, ASD understands that 
having preschools wrapped into our overall 
k-12 programs is not scalable (not affordable). 
In our effort to increase the readiness for 
kindergarten learning and not wanting to 
increase our costs, we are looking at innovative 
ways to increase the access to preschool. 
We partner with private preschools presently for 
training. Given some schools' space availability, 
we are investigating the idea of partnering 
with private preschools to offer programs in schools 
for students from low income families. We are 
essentially not looking to "give away assets," 
rather use the assets we have to bring value to 
our community. I realize nothing is free, 
nothing is being given away. We are in talks 
to see how we may rent space to offer a service 
that is needed by the community---this would 
support the private sector as well. These ideas 
are working in other cities, so the investigation 
was an effort to be innovative with the empty 
spaces in some schools.

2. The Education Next map URL you shared demonstrates 
the grade on STANDARDS, not assessments. The results 
of assessments are used to communicate the delta 
between the NAEP and individual state's assessment 
results in an effort to define rigor.  While Alaska 
has much to improve, the idea shared with the 
Senator was that we have standards that are of 
higher rigor than before. While our coefficient 
is still negative, it is closer than many states' 
results for which their state assessments found 
more students proficient than NAEP found. Again, 
Alaska's score is much closer, meaning we are 
more accurately reporting and that our standards 
are coming closer to the overall national expectation for 
student success. I did not share this to communicate 
we are doing well on these new standards. That 
would be untrue. In fact, I shared the poor PEAKS 
results for ASD in this presentation to show we have 
significant improvement to make.

I shared the map to demonstrate that the rigor of 
standards in Alaska changed, and we did step things 
up. Moreover, the ASD Board expects me, the superintendent, 
to foster our culture and actions to meet the higher 
standards. I am not sure about your "yikes" argument. 
Are you unhappy that we acknowledge the challenge? 

3. I will get the ACT and SAT information for you. 
It is shared directly with the District.

Thanks again for your feedback.

Cheers,
Deena

Dr. Deena M. Bishop
Superintendent, Anchorage School District
5530 E. Northern Lights Blvd.
Anchorage, AK 99504
Office Phone (907) 742-4312
 
Educating All Students for Success in Life

—–Original Message—–

From: Marc Grober
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 5:18 PM
To: School Board
Subject: Questions from the Trenches

Dear Anchorage School Board and Superintendent,

I was rather dismayed recently to receive a newsletter from Senator Gardner which featured the following statements:

Tuesday, the Anchorage School District (ASD) and School Board presented their 2018 legislative priorities to Anchorage legislators, highlighting advancements in education, cost-efficiency measures, and difficulties their organizations currently face. I sensed a lot of optimism from the district, conviction that they are moving in the right direction, and genuine pride from the new superintendent, Deena Bishop.

Over the last five years, Alaska has gone from 48th in academic rigor to 13th in the nation, SAT and ACT scores have risen city-wide (and are now well above average nationally), graduation rates have increased in nearly every demographic, and student attendance – a focus in every school – is up across the district. I’m also excited that ASD is beginning to offer space inside their schools at a below-market rate for private pre-K programs. This will provide increased access to pre-K at an affordable rate – a great incentive for parents to start their kids in their neighborhood school before Kindergarten, resulting in the need for fewer resources once they enter the public school system.

I wrote to the Senator inquiring as to the basis for these claims, and I am somewhat distressed at the results of my queries and hope that you can provide specifics as to what the Senator was actually referencing. First off, I had to ask myself about Education Next (the Senator said the claims were based on this link http://educationnext.org/state-standards-map-2016/).

Education Next “is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution” [http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/hoover_institution/ Hoover has been a mainstay of the Republican Party for decades, serving as a virtual revolving door for high-level GOP figures and apparatchiks, including many who served in the George W. Bush administration] which does not spare its own elbows in describing itself like this: “In the stormy seas of school reform, this journal will steer a steady course, presenting the facts as best they can be determined, giving voice (without fear or favor) to worthy research, sound ideas, and responsible arguments. Bold change is needed in American K-12 education, but Education Next partakes of no program, campaign, or ideology. It goes where the evidence points.”

This publication did a story in the Summer of 2016 (yes, a year and a half ago) in which they presented an interactive map that compared State AYP test results with NAEP test results. Of course, everyone in education has understood for years that very few states had AYP results comparable to NAEP proficiency. That map, produced a year and a half ago, is the map that the Senator was apparently referred to by the District. Yikes!

“Rigor” is defined in the map’s fine print: “This number shows for a given state in 2015 the difference in the percentage of students who were labeled proficient on the state exam and NAEP (National Assessment for Educational Progress). A negative number indicates that more students were identified as proficient on the state exam than were identified as proficient on NAEP”

The piece that references the map can be found here: http://educationnext.org/after-common-core-states-set-rigorous-standards/

Is this something for ASD to crow about. Absolutely not. As I wrote to the Senator:

“Education Next’s use of “rigor” means that if Alaska lists only 30% of its students as proficient on its exam, and its performance on NAEP reflects the same thing, then the lack of gap is regarded as effective rigor.

* This is a very artificial measure and it would be more appropriate to suggest that the metric might reflect reliability or validity of the NAEP or local measure, as opposed to rigor,

* Our coefficient is a negative number, which still shows our measure as being more “lenient” than the NAEP.

* This is at best a measure of our curriculum and testing regime, which so many want to see abandoned.

* Perhaps most importantly, the data employed are data on assessments THAT HAVE BEEN ABANDONED. In other words, anything Alaska could do to claim that State assessments were now consistent with NAEP assessments were dumped with the adoption of PEAKS.

Nothing to crow about here… So please explain why this was even trotted out to the Senator?

What about the relative performance on SAT and ACT? The Senator said that the data was provided by the testing corporations, but of course the data was not provided to the Senator, it was provided in some form, subject to certain conditions and limitations to the district. I looked at the District’s assessment web pages and could find nothing specific offering a link to the data in question. Where can the public find the data that the District is supposedly relying upon?

Lastly, how can we afford to rent out space to the public at lower than market value to provide services that the District could arguably do better? I failed to notice the sign at the time. You know, the one that said, “ASD giving away assets – sign up here!” I am a vocal supporter of public education, but it seems that ASD simply wants to fuel the fires of the Alaska Policy Forum and their ilk. What exactly is the cash loss ASD is suffering from the reduced rentals of these resources, and where is the policy analysis that finds that this giveaway is more important, for example, than providing reduced cost rentals to adult literacy programs, critical to student success, or parenting classes for that matter? Are the discounts available to any enterprise, or just for for-profits? Since we killed community schools largely on the rental loss to ASD, why not bring community schools back if ASD has so much money? Oh, wait! What about ASD offering a District wide Pre-K?

I really look forward to your reply, though based on your prior track record, I understand that answering difficult questions from the community has not been a focus of this administration.

Sincerely,

Marc

 

 

Can We Nooksack the Inupiaq?

While celebrating Columbus (https://www.thenation.com/article/the-invention-of-christopher-columbus-american-hero/) is as ludicrous as basing jurisprudence on Story’s Commentaries (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/inventing-a-christian-america-9780190230975), jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire is perhaps just as silly. Pushing tribal politics until we all look like Nooksackis (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/magazine/who-decides-who-counts-as-native-american.html) is perhaps a quantum too far.

One has to ask, who exactly are Alaska’s second peoples? There is some discussion as to whether Inupiaq (and their cousins to the East) are Alaska’s second or third peoples coming as they did rather later – some 20000 years after the first descendants of the Altaians made it from Asia (see for a general discussion http://www.pnas.org./content/113/23/6380.full), and of course, as there was no Alaska at the time, a broadening of the target brings to mind that there is evidence that Europeans made it to North America at least by 1500 ya – why not before the Inupiaq? And, of course, the purported lack of archeological evidence of humans in the Americas prior to 30000 ya is NOT evidence that there were NOT peoples here at the time. Lions and tigers and bears – don’t tell me we may have to drop someone’s cap N!?!?!?!?!

Every attempt at argument over who was there first ends up in finger-pointing and blood-letting and is, at its core, a version of “me, mine, and more”. We came down out of the trees just several hundred thousand years ago, and have been torturing each other since. We appear to have all come from what we now call Africa. The time that has passed since then is just the blink of an eye.

A Less Modest Proposal

Recently some folk have gotten their shorts in a twist because someone has the temerity to suggest that killing a 200 year old whale is not necessarily a good idea. Efforts to address those upset have been very unsuccessful because any word to suggest that Native harvest of whales should be challenged is labeled racism (which it, by definition, is not).

There is way too much emotive baggage, way too little reflection on issues underlying our cultural prejudices. Tribalism is inherent in Homo sapiens… we are virtually hard wired to be tribal as that provided some selective benefit as we evolved from under the shadows of the thunder lizards , but now it will kill us all. The harvest of marine mammals is still (and will likely become more of) a widely debated ethical decision (much as has happened with respect to pigs) as no human will die of lack of whale meat. The question is one of cultural relativism. If I eat children should I be allowed to continue eating children? Really. Why shouldn’t I eat your child? Or just mash it up as a blood sacrifice to my gods (which, after all, is not atypical for Homo sapiens)? While Dean Swift was being ironic when he penned “A Modest Proposal”, the point he makes is still very poignant, and the taking of marine mammals is as close to the dominionism now infecting our political culture.

If Critter A is hungry and he wants to eat another critter, he will run into some issues eventually, and he develops a credo that allows him to eat some (but not all) other critters. That credo, based largely on belief, is a matter of faith. You eat pig because you believe the pig is dumb, or you have some divine authority, or other excuse that applies to pig, but not dog, horse, or people. Many Neolithic and tribal cultures invent a mythology that results in their belief that their prey gives themselves freely to predator. This is, as suggested above, no far reach from dominionism.

Arguing that a specific cultural approach to life is inappropriate is not necessarily racist (and I think is rarely so, though humans are particularly inventive when it comes to being stupid). I think Female Genital Mutilation is horrific, yet I have no real qualms about Male Genital Mutilation… imagine that! Such cultural prejudices are endemic to Homo sapiens. At core it is now essentially a matter of faith. With the clash of cultures, questions will be asked, and I think that is appropriate – that is what Montesquieu was talking about when he discussed commerce, and the claims of “historical accident”, “cultural artifact”, or “religious tenet” can, and eventually will,  wear thin.


Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. 1729. https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/modest.html